Colombia Highlights 2020 – 2021 Vacation
Haciendas standing amid lush coffee plantations; chic city streets of color and cobblestone; colonial towns juxtaposed with pulsating modern cities, Caribbean islands unbeknown to the world. This handcrafted vacation reveals the best of Colombia, a country that has always had astonishing highlights. Now is the time to discover them. It’s a very safe and welcoming nation, with authentic rather than touristic highlights, enhanced by the wonderful vitality of a country on the up.
For six months Colombia was closed to the outside world. From 21st September 2020 international flights resumed. Citizens from over 100 countries can visit without a visa, including the USA, Canada, UK, Australia and all of the EU. There are no restrictions based on Covid-19, however all arrivals will need a negative PCR test, dated no longer than 72 hours before flight departure.
In the last few years Colombia has jumped from off the beaten path destination to a major upcoming destination. Places were just starting to get a little crowded, yet the authenticity had been retained. And now there is the opportunity to see Colombia with very few other travelers around.
Day 1 - Bogata – A City and Country of Surprise
Bogota Street Food and Market Tour
Every one of your senses may be overwhelmed as you enter Paloquemao, the largest farmers market in Bogota. Bustling lanes full of friendly vendors and colourful overflowing produce will have your eyes and nose darting around, attempting to absorb everything at once.Yet, this market is ultimately a culinary experience. You’ll be shown around by a local guide, stopping to munch on some of the best local snacks. From tamales to empanadas all washed down with exotic juices and locally roasted Colombian coffee, you’ll quickly discover the classic flavours of Colombia.
Days 2 & 3 - Villa de Leyva – A Serene Expression of Past Glory
Villa de Leyva Walking Tour
In Villa de Leyva you’ll feel as if you’ve stepped onto a real-life colonial era film set. Quiet cobblestone laneways sided by whitewashed buildings and terracotta roofs will transport you back in time. The well-preserved town of Villa de Leyva is the Colombia of many dreams, a perfectly preserved immersion in heritage. Known as Colombia’s most beautiful old town, it also has significant historical importance. You’ll find yourself drawn towards the large expansive main square. It was here that new laws were drafted after independence in 1812. Your local guide will explain the history of this colonial town, as you continue to be seduced by its beauty.
Raquira Ceramics and Pottery Workshop With an Artisan
Heading south of the whitewashed colonial buildings of Villa de Leyva, you’ll soon enter into an explosion of colour. The small town of Raquira is the pottery capital of Colombia. Colourful handicrafts spill out from the small shops into the streets.You’ll find everything here from ceramic bowls to Christmas decorations, all carefully crafted by traditional artisans in their workshops. You’ll be able to do more than just souvenir shopping on your visit, as you visit a pottery workshop. You will learn from a local artisan how they produce such incredible work and the intensive labour that goes into making ceramics.
Days 4 & 5 - Salento - Coffee & Hacienda Culture
Hike in the Cocora Valley Near Salento
Impossibly tall wax palms reach high into the sky, an unforgettable sight as you wander into the valley. These are Palma de cera, one of the world’s tallest palm varieties, dotting the slopes of the lush Cocora Valley. As you follow your guide along rural hiking trails, you’ll pass through open fields and travel deeper into a valley of solitude and serenity. Some of the viewpoints are astonishing, especially if you choose the longer of the two available treks. You’ll also stop at Acaime Hummingbird Sanctuary where you can step into the aviary to enjoy the small birds buzzing around your head. The hike is long, but there are also horses available if you wish to go faster.
Salento With the Locals Cultural Tour
Salento’s colourful buildings and large town square may at first appear to be the same as other colonial towns in Colombia. However, the quiet and isolated nature of Salento has produced a thriving artisanal community, with friendly characters who enjoy sharing their culture with visitors.With a local guide, you’ll go underneath the town’s skin and have meaningful connections with the local inhabitants, that few visitors take the time to initiate. Spend some time observing life in the town square and sit back in a café to try some of the locally produced coffee. Slipping into the relaxing and sociable vibe of Salento is always a good idea.
Salento Horseback Riding and Coffee Tasting Afternoon
Rolling green hills and perfectly manicured coffee plants will lure you out of the town of Salento. You can explore the surrounding beautiful countryside on horseback with a local caballista or horseman. Feel at ease, as this is the locals preferred mode of transport. Just sit in the saddle and appreciate the landscape passing you by. You’ll reach a local coffee farm where you can dismount to explore more of the coffee cultivation and production process. Of course, this includes a tasting, and you’ll be able to appreciate why Colombian beans are considered some of the best in the world. Then gallop back if you wish, for the horses know when it’s time to turn for home.
Days 6 & 7 - Medellin - Colombia Revitalised & Reinvented
Art of Botero Walking Tour through Medellin
Explore the city of Medellin through the eyes of one of Colombia’s best-known artists, Fernando Botero. As you walk through the city with an expert guide, you’ll discover the life and works of this incredibly distinctive artist and sculptor.You’ll visit the Museum of Antioquia where more than 100 of Botero’s paintings are on display and the Plaza de las Esculturas which is home to over 20 of his statues. You’ll come to recognise Botero’s signature style of exaggerated and inflated figures, as well as his political criticisms and humour through his art. It’s a purposeful walking tour of an interesting city, complete with local resident Botero’s artistic flair.
Paragliding Over Medellin
The incredible cityscape of Medellin stretches across the folds of the narrow Aburra Valley. Completely enclosed by green rolling hills, the city sprawls outwards against the odds of the sloping landscape. To fully appreciate the unique capital of the Antioquia province, you must see it from above.As your paraglide catches the wind, you’ll soar above the ground to take in panoramic views of the mountains and city below. You’ll get to appreciate Medellin for its urban development, as well its beautiful natural surroundings. With safe and experienced paragliding experts, the thrilling feeling of flying above the rooftops of Medellin will be unforgettable.
Pablo Escobar Tour of Medellin
Explore Colombia’s bloody history by taking an intimate tour in the life of infamous drug lord Pablo Escobar. Medellin was the heart of Escobar’s drug empire that etched a painful and bloody saga into the city’s foundations.With an expert local guide, you’ll visit Escobar’s former residence which has become a memorial park for the victims of Colombia’s drug war. Then, you’ll head to la catedral or the prison that Escobar built for himself ,as well as the cemetery where the notorious kingpin is buried. To understand how far the city has come, you’ll leave with a better understanding of what it’s had to endure.
Day 8 - Cartagena - Colorful Streets and Turquoise Waters
Cartagena World Heritage Walking Tour
Cartagena is known for its attractive architecture and picture-perfect street scenes. However, on this walking tour you’ll be able to peel back the charming façades and understand the fascinating colonial history of the UNESCO World Heritage site. Hear tales of rogue pirates and Spain’s violent colonisation of the Americas. Visit the iconic churches and the best sections of the 17th-century city walls. Bump into charismatic locals at local haunts. This historic walking tour will allow you to get underneath the skin of this enchanting city.
Sofitel Legend Santa Clara Cartagena
Blending history with impeccable luxury, this hotel is built within the compound of a 17th-century converted monastery. Located in Cartagena’s old town it retains much of its historical character. As you step from the unassuming street through the marble archway, you’ll feel as though you’ve been whisked back to colonial times. You can explore the crypts, wells, hidden windows and ornate paintings from the original nunnery. It almost feels as though you’re staying inside a museum. However, the subtle service is flawless. Expect a 24-hour butler service, along with a spa and hammamm to unwind in after exploring the city.A stay here will leave you feeling a part of Cartagena’s living history.
Days 9 & 10 - Cartagena - Old-World Charm on the Caribbean Coast
Cartagena and the Caribbean Scenic Helicopter Flight
The urban sprawl of Cartagena’s colonial streets comes to an abrupt halt as the land meets the azure waters of the Caribbean. It’s an incredibly stunning metropolis, a juxtaposition of old and new. With this travel moment you will enjoy it all from above. On this helicopter scenic flight you’ll have complete control over what you want to see. You can point out the areas that ignite your interest, while the pilot helps narrate magical views of the city and sea below.After flying over a blue expanse you can stop for lunch at one of the Caribbean islands. This is a truly exceptional experience from both land and sky.
Ceviche and Cocktail Tour through Cartagena
Gain an authentic insight into the Cartagena nightlife scene. Begin your evening outing by sampling some of the best ceviche in the city. Colombia has turned Peruvian-invented cured raw fish into its own art form. You’ll learn the secrets to creating this tastebud tingling dish from a top city chef. Then you’ll move onto the best cocktail haunts with an in-the-know local. One of the top mixologists will show you their perfected concoctions, before you taste their top-class drinks. It’s a night of fabulous flavours at the city’s coolest establishments, in the old and new parts of the city.
Cartagena Rum and Chocolate Tasting
Prepare your taste buds for a sampling of Colombia’s nectar of the Gods. Rum has a long-standing history in the Caribbean region and it’s one of Colombia’s prized exports. On this exclusive tasting, an expert mixologist will walk you through the backstory of the beverage, including the all-important brewing process.You can then sample some of the rare, top notch breeds of local rum, along with perfectly paired local Colombian chocolate. There’s no better indulgent combination for an intimate evening in Cartagena.
Days 11 - 13 - Colombian Amazon Experience
Colombian Amazon Boat Tour
Gliding along the waterways of the Amacayacu National Park, you can completely surrender to the overwhelming nature of the Amazonas. Listen to the uninterrupted sounds of birds chirping and insects buzzing in the dense rainforest. Hear a monkey howl from the canopy. Gaze at the different species of plants, many of which you may never have seen before. On this relaxing private boat tour, your guide will explain what you’re seeing and hearing around you. There’s no more intimate way to appreciate all the sights and sounds of the Colombian Amazon.
Hiking in the Colombian Amazon in Amacayacu National Park
As you wander along the Matamata creek you’ll be edging deeper into the exotic Amazon. You’ll follow the footsteps of your indigenous guide, as they point out to you the extraordinary diversity of plant and animal species that can be found in this dense reserve. Notice the small details. The ants crawling on the trail in front of you, the birds fluttering in the canopies above. The Amazon is the natural world’s ultimate haven and you’ll want to soak up all the sights and sounds on this hike.You’ll stop for lunch in an indigenous settlement where you can learn about the people’s existence amongst such an overpowering natural environment.